Before I begin I'd like to say a few things. This is going to be a pretty large post. Because China is a very large place, and although the photos here are just from a small part of it, the trip I recently undertook with my girlfriend was a very large trip, and one that I'd thought about doing for a large amount of time.

Most of the photos aren't from the part of the trip that were the point of going there. Partly because I wasn't taking many photos during that bit, and partly because I don't know how to write about it yet, and would, very likely, babble.

At this point maybe I'd just like to add an apology to anyone I know in China who I didn't visit. Next time I will - I promise.

Because of the nature of the journey, we wanted to travel as light as possible, which meant one bag each and no DSLR. I had my Holga with me and will post some of those photos once they're printed. But these are all photos from my phone.

We started in Lufeng, on the south coast of Guangdong. We stayed there for a couple of days to get an idea of our surroundings and where exactly to start. The first night we stayed in the first hotel the rickshaw driver took us to. I'll probably never experience such luxury again. The carpet was so thick my feet disappeared. 'Soft' doesn't even begin to describe the bed or the pillows. Very nice. Very restful. But so as not to slay our budget or get too far removed from the point of the journey, we spent the following night in a guesthouse. The bed had no mattress and we were kept awake all night by the man next door vomiting, shouting, and, every now and again, trying to get into our room. It's good to experience these contrasts I think.

The next day, we started hitchhiking to Beijing. We planned to hitch due north to the capital from Lufeng which, by chance, was in a straight line along the crease of the map.

Each night we would prepare our signs for the next day. One sign said 'hitchhiking', and the others were a list of possible towns or cities along the way.

Most of the places we hitched from weren't so beautiful - the dusty sides of country roads, toll gates, petrol stations - but some had a certain, blocky, Chinese charm.

We only had a couple of rest days along the way. First was Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi Province. The city is built along a river, has some pretty dapper old streets hidden amongst the more modern buildings, and an excellent street food area where you can eat clams so spicy they'll make your teeth bleed. Ten years ago I lived in Chongqing, home of the Sichuan Hot Pot, my favourite food. In fact, everything in Chongqing is served in peppercorns and chilli, so I'm no stranger to spice. But those clams nearly killed me. Seriously good.

The next place we rested was Hefei, the capital of Anhui province. Although the next photo isn't Hefei.

I've always struggled to explain to anyone who has never been to China just how huge it is in every way. I don't know how to do it with out getting into a bit of a lather. Because even though I've lived there, once I wasn't living there it seemed difficult to comprehend it. You have to be there to realize the scale of everything. Even now, as I write this, the country, and everything in it doesn't seem as big as it really is.

This next photo was taken in a suburb of the suburbs of Hefei. A small (not my words) satellite city of over half a million people. Hefei, a city of more than five million, is surrounded by places like this. And that's normal. Countless times when we were travelling through the country, whoever was giving us a ride would point out a "small city over there of about three or four million". China is large - very very large. And the 'small town' in the photo isn't completed. What the photo doesn't show is that to my left, and behind me (and everywhere around the whole country, on the edges of all photos), there are scores more tower blocks of the same size under construction. Also, this 'small town' probably wasn't here twenty years ago.

Even then, that photo perhaps doesn't do justice to the hugeness of China. Nevermind. And so to Hefei, where we sweated a lot, and saw these things:

And then to Tai'An, where we rested again, or didn't. We climbed the sacred mountain of Taishan, which Confucius and Mao Tse-Tung had scaled just a few days before. And these are some photos not from the mountain but from Tai'An at the foot of it:

And onwards, arriving at this place - a beautiful environs of a service station bathroom...

...where it became clear that our two and a half thousand kilometre hitchhike would end that day.

The plan was to end the journey in the heart of Beijing, in Tiananmen Square. Alas, it was closed, so we lurked in the shadows next door.

And this is Beijing. It's a great city. Culture, history, art, punk, architecture and hugeness, all baked into a very interesting pie. The filling is history, and made of secret (and secretive) ingredients, and the crust (ever-growing), is the present. Eat it.

We took the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai.

It was fast. So fast it bent the landscape.

And once there we went, among other places, to Pudong, which is a jumble of very tall buildings - some so tall they connect the clouds. In one of the buildings, shaped like a bottle opener, we stood on glass above the ant cars and the ant people...

...and we felt large.


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